Hosting the opening contest of the MHSAA District 100 tournament, the Munising Mustangs girls basketball team used a strong performance on the boards to advance 49-25 over the Big Bay de Noc Black Bears.

With a complete team rebounding effort, Munising boxed out Big Bay on every rebound opportunity in the first quarter. The Mustangs ran up an 18-1 advantage by the end of the quarter, 15 of those coming on second-chance baskets. It wasn’t until Kaitlyn Massengill grabbed an offensive rebound in the first possession of the second that the Black Bears were able to score from the floor.

“Big Bay is a talented team, so we didn’t want them to stick around,” Munising Head Coach Matt Mattson said. “We were worried about their perimeter shooting, so we’re lucky to get out of here with the win.”

Multiple deep buckets from Cameryn Pederson and Alix Bleau brought Big Bay de Noc back into a competitive focus. The Black Bears cut the deficit to 11 with 4:34 left in the third, but it would be the closest they would be for the rest of the game.

“You start the first quarter with that big of a hole and it’s hard to come back,” Big Bay de Noc Head Coach Bob Pederson said. “We’re young and kind of shell shocked, so it took the first quarter to shake off the butterflies.”

Pederson was proud of his players taking the time to set up the plays to open up the deep shots.

“Recently, we’ve shot the three-ball a lot better using the motion,” he said. “First quarter was one pass and shoot, but we got to three, five passes a shot and that’s when things worked better for us.”

Driving the Mustangs were Jenna Matson and Emmy Crisp scoring 22 AND 14 respectively. Both players were able to help slow down the contest and get the win.

“We really buckled down there because we had to. Big Bay made a couple runs there and we responded well,” Mattson said. “We know if we play, we can compete with anyone in this district, so I’m thankful we did just that to get the win.”

This was an intriguing matchup with both teams gaining wins and momentum coming into the MHSAA tournament. Big Bay de Noc had comfortably run through the Northern Lights League to win back-to-back titles and lost to top district seed Mid Peninsula 54-53 on March 15. Munising struggled with COVID-19 positives and protocols to start the season before winning four of their last five.

Both teams are young. There were multiple times in the contest where there was not an upper classman on the floor, as Munising has a single senior and five juniors, while the Black Bears have a pair of juniors.

“We came in starting three freshmen and two sophomores, so we wanted to see what would happen,” Pederson said. “There was a lot of chances to grow.”

Munising will move on in the tournament to face Superior Central (3-10) in the next round.

“Superior Central is very good this year. They beat us on our own floor earlier this year and Riley Johnson scored 30 in their last game, so we have our work cut out for us,” Mattson said.

The Mustangs and Cougars will be the opening game at 6 p.m. while Mid Pen and Rapid River will compete in the second. Both games will be on Wednesday, March 24 at Munising High School.